Should Senators Ask Alito about the Role of His Faith? ; If Confirmed, He Would Become the Fifth Catholic among the Nine Justices on the Supreme Court

By Warren Richey writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Should Senators Ask Alito about the Role of His Faith? ; If Confirmed, He Would Become the Fifth Catholic among the Nine Justices on the Supreme Court


Warren Richey writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


One of the defining characteristics of American liberty is that a person's religious faith - or lack of religious faith - is generally a private matter outside the realm of government concern.

Indeed, Article VI of the Constitution bars any religious test for prospective government officials.

But now, President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to a seat on the US Supreme Court is raising a sensitive question: To what extent should a nominee's religious faith be a legitimate area of inquiry during Senate confirmation hearings?

The issue arises as Judge Alito stands at the threshold of making Supreme Court history. Should he win confirmation, he will become the fifth Roman Catholic among the roster of nine justices, marking the first time a majority on the high court would be Catholic.

It is a remarkable development, considering he would be only the 12th Catholic justice on a court that has seen the service of more than 100 justices.

But in a country with a tradition of separation between church and state, any focus on Catholicism seems to some analysts more a relic of anti-Catholic prejudice than a well-intentioned effort to examine Alito's temperament, intellect, or judicial philosophy.

"The question is fidelity to the law," says Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University School of Law. "So it is entirely appropriate for the Senate to make that inquiry. What is inappropriate is for the Senate to only make that inquiry of Catholics."

He also says, "The history of those Senate inquiries is that [Catholics] are the only people who have been asked." The late Justice William Brennan, Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, and, most recently, Chief Justice John Roberts, were all asked if their Catholic faith would interfere with their ability to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States, Professor Kmiec says.

Now the question is emerging anew as supporters and opponents gear up for what analysts say could become judicial-confirmation Armageddon. Some see such questions as a form of anti-Catholic bigotry. Others see complaints about religious questioning as being part of a campaign to head off aggressive interrogation.

"It is a tactic aimed at shutting down discussion on a crucial area of legal philosophy," says the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance. "It is very difficult to get into the process without being labeled anti-Catholic. And that is by design by people on the religious right."

Mr. Gaddy adds, "In reality, it is not about religion. It is about politics."

Many older Americans are aware of the so-called Catholic question from the way presidential candidate John F. Kennedy responded in 1960 to a group of ministers who expressed their concerns that a Catholic president might have dual loyalties to both the US and the Vatican.

Mr. Kennedy answered: "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me." The response went a long way in opening doors for American Catholics seeking positions of leadership in a country once dominated by Protestants. But many are asking why the question is still arising in 2005.

Supreme Court justices must swear two oaths: to protect and defend the Constitution and to faithfully and impartially uphold the Constitution and US laws. Legal analysts say that while it is sometimes easy to distinguish between the rulings of liberal and conservative judges, it is impossible to identify any meaningful characteristics of a Catholic judge, or Jewish judge, or Protestant judge. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Should Senators Ask Alito about the Role of His Faith? ; If Confirmed, He Would Become the Fifth Catholic among the Nine Justices on the Supreme Court
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.